With the start of the Atlantic hurricane season merely days away, on Thursday, May 22, 2014, NOAA released its 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast, predicting a likely below-normal hurricane season.
On par with AccuWeather.com's forecast, released on May 14, the agency expects this season to offset the high hurricane activity seen in the last 20 years. Out of the last 20 years, 12 years have experienced above-normal hurricane seasons, according to NOAA.
NOAA predicts a total of eight to 13 named storms, with three to six developing into hurricanes and one to two intensifying into major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher.
The seasonal averages are 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
As the onset of El Niño, a short-term phenomenon associated with above-normal water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, unfolds in late summer or early fall, tropical development in the Atlantic basin is likely to be limited.
In line with AccuWeather.com's predictions, NOAA expects the impacts of El Niño, including increasing wind sheer across portions of the basin, as well as lower Atlantic Ocean temperatures, to hinder tropical development.
"If we have a robust El Niño develop, then the numbers will be much lower, and this could be one of the least active years in recent memory," AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said.
If the 2014 season falls short of normal, it would only be the fourth below-normal season in 20 years, according to NOAA.
Despite predictions for a below-normal to near-normal season, the entire East Coast should prepare for the worst as years with similar quiet patterns, such as 1992, can still unleash violent, destructive storms.
In 1992, during what looked to be a tranquil season, Hurricane Andrew nearly wiped out South Florida and parts of Louisiana.
"And even though we expect El Niño to suppress the number of storms this season, it's important to remember it takes only one land-falling storm to cause disaster," Ph.D. and NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan said.
As the official start to the Atlantic hurricane season approaches, on June 1, 2014, AccuWeather.com Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski suggested that the season could be kickstarted by one or two storms in June or July.
However, the best potential for storm development and landfall will come during the heart of hurricane season in the months of August, September and October.
Regardless of storm timing, both NOAA and AccuWeather.com urge those near the coastline to prepare now.
"All we need is one hurricane," Kottlowski said. "Just because we are saying this is going to be an inactive season doesn't mean we couldn't have a couple of very intense hurricanes."